The Theme of Location in Web Design

Web design covers the full gamut of elements that comprise a Web presence. One interesting theme that ties design together is location. Location, location, location – we hear this phrase ringing across the Web when talking about Web sites, especially when it comes to search engine optimization or advertising space. However, there is very little in your Web site that does not relate to location. It is a critical element in everything from hosting to web design, from social media, to advertising.

1. Domains – Location plays an important role in domains. If you have a website hosted as a subdomain with an existing domain (e.g. blogger.com) then you are in close proximity to some potentially major Web real estate. Being tied into a larger community or network in such blogging sites will help people find you and you find them. The other side of real estate is real, real estate – the kind with bricks and mortar – where you can get a domain that has your region in the domain name, for example, we could build a site around the keywords “Calgary web designer”. If you service only one area or region then this can help you brand your site to show your dedication to this region, be it a town, city, state or province or even a country. You can even create multiple subdomains for each region that you serve, under a main domain, if you have a business that has multiple offices or locations across the country or around the world. It shows your customers that you serve their local needs.

2. Web Hosting – This is a lesser known factor that is often overlooked by people looking for Web hosting packages. Find out where your host has their host servers located, most people do not take the time to do this step. They only look for the lowest price and best deal. For example, we use servers that are located in Calgary, Alberta. IP addresses are taken into consideration in some search engines’ indexing, so having a local host can help a bit with your search engine ranking. It can also be easier for you to get support if your Web host is located nearby.

3. Web Design – Location in Web design focuses on the visual real estate of any given Web page. Generally speaking, the highest valued areas should be dedicated to logos, advertising space and featured content. The top left or top center is the standard place for the Web site’s main logo, which is accompanied with key navigational elements, such as the main menu and login forms. Advertising space can also appear along the top, sides or bottom of the Web design. If, for instance, you dedicate the right column of your Web design to show Google Adsense advertising, then you will see that Google will provide targeted ads that, yes, are determined by your location and/or the location of the user viewing the ad. So if the user is in Calgary, Alberta, then they may well see ads posted for “Calgary Web designers” as a key word, based on their IP address. The location of content might seem like a given, but it is important that the main content, and any highlighted content, be placed in clear and easy view for the user to scan quickly.

4. Web Content – When it comes to your main content you need to consider the location of your content on the page, so it is prominent and easy to read. Location is also important for titles and contextual links. For any content generated for articles and article spinning, location is also key, first for adding in your keywords but also to the location of the backlinks to your site. Search engine spiders will prefer to see your links at the top and bottom of the content.

5. Search Engine Optimization – Google and other search engines now display results based on the viewer’s location (e.g. Google Local), so it is important that your Web site be properly optimized and submitted to the main search engines. Create a business profile that defines your location. This will ensure that your listing will appear along with your local competitors and above those who are not located in your region. Defining your location in your search terms will immediately help to funnel local, targeted traffic to your site.

6. Bonus tip – Web Advertising – Paid advertising is related to search engine optimization. The two big hitters Google Adwords and Facebook ads both provide powerful tools to define and track your campaigns. You can specify the regions and specific locations that you’d like to target with your ads, thereby providing you with targeted hits to your Calgary website.

Location, as an element of Web design, needs proper attention at all stages of Web development. Keep location in mind from the domain registration down to post-launch search engine marketing and Web advertising campaigns. Whether you are located in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, location will play a critical role in the success of your site.

Is SEO Actually Web Design?

Is SEO Actually Web Design?
By Lucas Arnatt, Calgary Web Designer

Most clients and designers alike tend to think that the first step of building a Web site is creating or choosing the graphic design and layout of the site, or perhaps planning the site using a flow chart or site map. But the first step of design is not the graphical design, nor the overall functional design of the site.

Rather, it is the essential task of defining the core Search Engine Optimization needed for the site. This is the nucleus of design, since it establishes niche, targeted audience, tone and intensity of presence. This starts with assessing the prospective client’s business goals and determining how to best illustrate these goals and their unique online presence by something as simple as their domain name. The domain name is a great example of SEO as design since it is the key to attracting and illustrating a company on the Web, even before the actual site design is seen or a menu button has been pressed. Whether or not the domain is even full of relevant keywords, the more essential nature of the domain name is that it is there to attract and deliver a message – just as design does.

So, when has SEO ever been seen as actual design? SEO is usually discussed in terms of bots and directories, meta tags, keyword density and search engine ranking. But seeing SEO as an integral part of design, rather than just its tools and methods, helps us to move more into the creative nature of the Internet and Web design.

Generally, a designer will start to integrate SEO at the initial stage of graphic development; how a website is built graphically can affect the overall effects of its organic search results. That is, the natural result of the Website being indexed by search engines and the consequent flow of visitors to the site. So, in the same way that SEO is part of design, design is also part of SEO.

At the core of this pairing are two values: Attraction and Delivery.
SEO and Web design can easily seen as separate since they involve different terms, tools and techniques to implement them. However, they ultimately play the same roles – to attract and deliver.


ATTRACTION

Attracting a visitor, whether it is human or an algorithmic robot, takes research and skill. To make attraction as inherent within the site design and SEO results as possible we need to connect with both sides of the “Internet coin” – say heads for the public, viewership side and tails for the back end development. The value of any successful website is the continuous ability to remain visible and attract visitors to the site. This is achieved by the initial work of the focused development of the Website to be as attractive as possible (in word and image) with following, responsive development to how the public side of site is evaluated by search engines and visitors. The two sides of a coin create a unity of value, one side inherently needed by the other to hold value.


DELIVERY

But like a shiny coin given a pre-defined value, a website ranking on the first few pages of Google pre-supposes a level of success over those sites back on the 100th page. The value of a coin is only ever experienced when it is transferred from one to another. Having a million dollars is great, but it is only of value to those who can exchange it for something else they value more. It is the same for any Web site, it is the nature of a successful Web site to deliver something of value to its audience (and by extension, its creators) otherwise it is deemed worthless.

Design and SEO both are crafted to equally create a Web site’s value, since they are equally responsible for delivery of information. As a Web designer I have increasingly become aware of how important it is to have a strong attractive design, but the strongest design is one that surrounds and supports the content and helps delivery of information. This has more value than design that is just eye candy, which may help the attraction factor but does not necessarily help the final goal and richest value found in information delivery.

Is SEO actually Web Design? I believe it is…sure, we can separate the two during the development process, since they require different production methods and analysis, but the essential, integral nature and end goal of both processes joins them together, like the two sides of a coin.

Lucas Arnatt is the lead designer at BlindDrop Design Inc. and has been producing Web sites since 1997. BlindDrop Design serves many local Cochrane and Calgary, Alberta businesses and organizations. BlindDrop offers a wide variety of services that include Web design (and SEO), Graphic Design and Photography.

Calgary Web Design Company, BlindDrop Design

Are you a business or organization looking for a Calgary Web design team? A professional web design for your Calgary business will provide you with many advantages over competitors who still do not yet have a website, or have a website designed but have not updated it enough. It is true that a Web site can become a detriment to your company if you do not keep the content updated and play a proactive role in its development. So, beyond the initial web site development, you will need to consider that getting the site live is really the first step. It takes ongoing effort to keep your site updated, to make sure it is appearing properly and successfully in the top major search engines and that the site’s integrity remains intact through browser updates and server upgrades. Even beyond the Web, you must consider how to properly advertise and promote your Web site to your local audience in Calgary Alberta.

So, as a Calgary Web designer, I ask the question – Do you even need a professional Web design company at all? There are many free tools and resources online for you to learn and use to create your own site. If you’re willing to take on the onus of the time and effort to learn the software, contact support boards and forums, read instruction documents, learn proper search engine optimization – basically how to become a lightweight Web developer yourself – then these resources will help you. You do not have to learn code with some DIY web tools, but you will still have to learn what Web developers and SEO specialists learn, on an ongoing basis, since the Internet’s playing field changes and evolves along with coding standards, browser makes and versions, hosting requirements, domain name releases and general advances and trends such as social networking and mobile usage.

“Web Design” can easily become an ambiguous term for developing a Web site. A professional Web designer does far more than design the site. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “Design & Build” well, a true Calgary Web design team will  “Design, Build, Promote and Expand” your Web presence and should readily look at how your offline efforts match your online efforts. Design envelops the look, function, performance and success of your Web presence – Web design should never stop at just being something pretty to look at. It’s purpose needs to be deeper.

In another article I wrote about how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can actually be seen as Web Design, to show how integrated their goals are for a Web presence. So when you are looking for a Calgary Web designer make sure they can support you in the other areas of hosting, domain management, marketing (online & offline), can provide an ongoing service to keep your site easily found and help you expand the Web presence as you need.

If you are a business or organization in the Calgary AB area, it would definitely be an advantage, if not a prerequisite for you to find a local Design team to help you achieve your goals and coordinate your graphic design with your Web presence and online campaigns. You can consider your Web design budget as at least a three year investment, maybe even five years if your site is built and expanded properly.

In the end, you will need to find a Web development team that you are most comfortable to work with, a team that is focused on the key areas of making your site a success…not just making your site, period.

If you are looking for a proactive and multi-faceted design team, take a look at BlindDrop’s testimonials and featured client list, and if you are interested, please contact us via our Request form for a free quote on your Calgary Web design project.

11 Advantages of Web Revitalization

Is your website ready for rebuilding?

Sure, a few years ago your website had all the bells and whistles that your Calgary Web designer could offer. But now, the site is beginning to show its age. The Internet lives in dog years more than it does in human years, things change quickly, evolution and revolution go hand in hand.

So, what can you do with your aging site? Scrap it and start again? Well, it depends. When you start thinking about rebuilding your website, it is as good a time as any to review your entire Web presence. You need to consider how your needs have changed, how Web culture has changed and how your goals for your website have changed too. If you need to look further than that, you will be considering your business model, your business niche, your marketing strategy and budget and your corporate identity. These need to be secured before you move into any new or revitalized Web project. Being secure in these key areas allows you to confidently consider the options for your Web site redesign. Consider everything from the domain to hosting, the script/database platform the site is built on, the functionality of the website (do you want to move into e-commerce, if you haven’t already?) the look of the web design and how relevant is your content to today’s visitors?

Here are the top 11 advantages of Web redesign:

  1. Domain and hosting re-considerations – you can look at more relevant domains for your Web presence and redirect your old domain references using a 301 redirect to ensure all of your search engine results find their corresponding link on your new site.
  2. Fresh overall look – has your company’s image been updated? Or does your current Web design carry obviously old design trends? Looking established is one thing, looking passe is another! Keep the site design clean and simple to ensure its longevity.
  3. Expand your Web site design – many older sites were built to the past standard of 800px wide screens. Now the standard resolution is 1366×768 (reference), which makes narrow screens feel constrained.
  4. Funnily enough, we have gone back to having to accommodate small screens again as we are now the mobile generation. If your website structure does not adapt to the different screen sizes it is not considered “mobile-friendly.” Improving the user’s experience is a key part of the design and re-design process and integrating the “responsive design” that adapts to your laptop, tablet and mobile phone.
  5. Update and reorganize content – A redesign gives you permission to turf old news, or at least move it to an archives area, and rewrite your content with content that is freshly enriched with up-to-date search terms and keywords.
  6. Navigation and Menu improvement – A key aspect of redesign is a full review of the menu systems and supporting navigation.
  7. Refresh photos and images throughout the site – get rid of that old stock photo and add in some custom photos of your own.
  8. Update your website’s platform to a CMS. If you have a CMS already, make sure it gets updated to the latest version to ensure compatibility, security and functionality.
  9. Updated SEO techniques – if you don’t keep your search engine optimization up to date, you will lose out to competitors who do.
  10. Add video – get rid of that flash intro and put those development funds into adding a custom video clip to your revitalized site.
  11. Consider adding ties to Social media – like Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Just make sure you are prepared to update and maintain these other media sites in the future.

A redesigned website can be even more powerful than a new website. When done correctly, your Web designer can make sure that the momentum carried by the old site fuels the redesigned site – even if this means a new domain or updated web page addresses.

A final reason for Web site redesign, whether you are in Calgary, Alberta or anywhere else in the world, is to spread the news to clients, friends and everyone else! A Web redesign will get people talking and re-ignite their interest in your company and services.

We specialize in Web site revitalization and can meet your graphic design and web design needs serving Calgary, Airdrie, Cochrane & Okotoks.

Top 5 Marketing Tips for your Calgary Website

Top 5 Search Engine Optimization & Marketing Tips for your Web Presence

Here we are entering the second decade of the new millennium. The Internet and the World Wide Web keep building and are continually more influential in our business and personal lives. With the advent of “smart phones” and “net books” that allow for compact, mobile access to the Internet we can only expect this access and usage to increase worldwide. Just as cellphones made the anachronistic leap into lesser developed countries in the past decades, it is conceivable that our public wireless network will truly become world-wide and help level the playing ground of world economics and political responsibility.  I hope that technology will bring about that kind of positive change toward individual freedom and expression, rather than create more division and segregation in the world.

Now, change is inevitable and forever constant, Google algorithms show us this, and while it keeps us in the Web development and promotion business hopping, the search engine’s continual rebirth is needed to act as a catalyst for future standards and to keep those abusers at bay. I don’t think that SERPs are out to get us, for example Google’s main focus is to provide the best user experience possible, so when they ditched landing pages from their “in box” to their “out box” it improved user experience overall by acknowledging that there is more to life than making money. Landing pages are a marketer’s money funnel and while the information products that were being sold might be of some use to consumers I can see why Google made this change. Sure, we all need to make money to stay in business and sure we need effective, efficient ways to do so, however, when a marketing technique reaches saturation it will find itself in bullish territory.

Blogging is something I have resisted myself for sometime, for no other reason that it is another commitment in an already busy schedule. However, it is a force to be reckoned with as a part of the growing popularity of social media and also as a marketing tool for business owners. Unfortunately, I have seen a growing trend in blogging where SEO marketing companies are producing blog entries that are choppy, randomized articles that have the keywords, such as “Calgary Web Design” scattered throughout. This technique’s single purpose is to sidestep the “chore” of actually creating unique, useful content in hopes of getting a back link to their client’s site. This is an example of the other end of the marketing funnel – focused landing pages on one end and hazy, randomized blog entries on the other. The former is a hook, the latter a net. As a Calgary and Cochrane Web design company owner and operator, I wouldn’t condone either of these methods for our clients, however they do provide us with a gauge for the extent of manipulation companies are going to in abusing technology to make money. I guess what I am saying is that technology allows us to push its limits, however, we can’t be surprised with SERPs decide that enough is enough.

To this end, I would like to offer five fundamental components for search engine optimization and search engine marketing:

  1. Useful, organic content – Focus on producing unique, organic search results for your main Web presence. This means adding and updating content at a comfortable pace for you. If you think from the visitor’s point of view as to what they would find of value, then you are actually satisfying the SERPs too. At least the ones who define themselves by user experience. A blog is a great way to to this, but not the only way, adding new PDF documents, news articles and channeling relevant RSS feeds work too. Get your site built, or rebuilt, with a CMS (Content Management System) so you can do updates yourself.
  2. Meta tags cannot hurt – at least when done correctly. Research what the current acceptable rate is for Titles, descriptions and keywords and make sure the keywords and search terms reflect the organic content on the page. Make them as unique as possible.
  3. Use Search Engine Friendly URLs where ever possible – again, they work well for visitors as they do for search engine indexing. Since many websites are database-driven, this feature is becoming more and more popular and necessary.
  4. Get steady back links – back links, whether reciprocal or one way will help your site’s popularity, you can help control the search terms used for incoming links to your site by running an ongoing back link campaign on sites that are themselves popular, for instance, those that have a Google page rank equal or greater than your own.
  5. Make friends with Google – Since working with Google seems inevitable, since they represent approximately 70% of online searches, get set up with Google Analytics and submit a Google XML site map. While server stats are good as a default, Google’s webmaster services help open lines of communication between a Web site and those promoting it. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly!

It is good to challenge boundaries, and to test the extent of technology, however we always need to remember that it is people, not statistics or page views, that make the Web go round. People generally only are looking for one thing, whether it is a service or product, when they come to your site, so keeping it real will keep them coming back and not clicking away.